Russian pledges to shield depositors from banks' e-commerce shift

MOSCOW, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Russia’s central bank on Thursday warned banks of the risks in investing non-banking services, such as e-commerce and food delivery, and said it was drafting special regulations to protect the interests of depositors and investors.

Some Russian banks, including the country’s biggest lender Sberbank, are diversifying away from their core business to offer wide-ranging services, such as online marketplaces, food delivery and video streaming.

Sberbank has said it expects its non-financial businesses to generate 60% of company revenues by 2030, with e-commerce at the heart of a new three-year strategy. It also counts the Rambler media group and Okko online cinema among other assets.

Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said these “ecosytems” were certainly attractive for consumers, giving people all the services they needed in one place.

But Nabiullina, speaking at a conference, said they carried their own risks, too, when banks invest depositors’ funds in new businesses and their expansion.

“The return from these businesses can be smaller and come later than the bank ... expects,” she said. “And we must defend the interests of depositors and investors.”

“After all, a person has the right to expect that if they put money in a bank, then it is not their problem how profitable the online cinema business will be, or even the network of online cinemas the bank owns.”

Nabiullina did not name any of the banks.

Her comments mark her harshest attack yet on the shift away from mainstream banking.

Earlier on Thursday, Nabiullina said the peak of loan restructuring had passed and that the banking sector was ready to live without COVID-19 support from the regulator.

Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Alexander Marrow Editing by Katya Golubkova and Jane Merriman